Wilfred Limonious

If you have been a reggae or dancehall fan for any significant amount of time, then you will be familiar with the work and influence of Wilfred Limonious, even if you can’t place the actual name. Limonious was a Jamaican artist who pretty much illustrated and documented the birth, and subsequent growth, of the dancehall era of reggae music.

Death in the Arena Wilfred Limonious

Limonious album art

Wilfred Limonious was the artist who did more to define the look and feel of reggae and dancehall music, especially during the 1980s and into the early 1990s, than any other artist (although Jamaal Pete, Orville ‘Bagga’ Case, and Tony McDermott need name-checks here also).

He was responsible for designing and creating over 150 album covers and record sleeves, and it is testament to his work that it was (and still is) instantly recognizable with a defined character all of its own.

Wilfred Limonious was born in Jamaica in 1949, and his talent for drawing cartoons saw him soon getting his work featured in the Jamaica Star newspaper. As roots reggae began getting overshadowed by the emerging Dancehall scene in the 1980s, Limonious soon found that his talent and artistic style made a perfect bedfellow for the emerging Dancehall scene.

Limonious drew quick and fast, and his artwork had a kinetic style, it was often rough and ready, with a leaning towards outsider art. He usually focused on busy scenes packed with people and laced his work with humour, often punctuating it with speech bubbles containing Jamaican street slang to tell stories, or to heighten the action-packed scenes that he drew. He often chose to set his artwork in scenes from daily Jamaican life, and as the years went on more and more of his artwork pieces used dancehall situations as inspiration or a background.

Check out the video tribute to the work of Wilfred Limonious below for a small sample of the huge body of work that he produced:

Limonious gave a distinct visual signature to the genre, and provided a visual impact as strong as the musical one that the developing Dancehall music was making.

Super Cat by Wilfred Limonious

Super Cat by Wilfred Limonious

Wilfred Limonious also had a keen eye for design and layout. Despite being most known for his cartoonish drawings, the work that Limonious did for album sleeves usually fell into one of two styles. The most recognisable, as we have stated, were his wild and energetic cartoon sketches that often portrayed the artist, or told stories, packed with humor, and sometimes leaned towards playful x-rated imagery. However, he also produced album sleeves where a photo of the artist dominated the front cover with some hand-drawn titles, and coloured shapes framing the artist (complete with a cartoon rear cover) – the sleeve for Super Cat’s ‘Si Boops Deh‘ (1985) is a perfect example of this mix of layout design and cartoon sketches – the artist framed on the cover, with a crazy cartoon on the rear showing Super Cat handing out dollars dressed like a pimp.

Later in the 80s he experimented with using more geometrical shapes on his album covers, often drawing them by hand.

Until recently there wasn’t a huge amount of documentation about Limonious available online. That changed when Chris Bateman started investigating more about the life of Wilfred Limonious which culminated in a book called In Fine Style, The Dancehall Art of Wilfred Limonious. You can read more on this project at his great blog called Infinite Style.

The love that Limonious had for reggae music was not only expressed through artwork, as part of his investigations Bateman also uncovered an audio recording of a song that Limonious managed to release on the Wax label in Jamaica, called ‘Young Love‘. Check it out below:

Limonious sadly passed away in 1999, however, his work lives on and continues to speak more loudly than the man himself ever did. His artwork, sketches, and drawings continue to bring joy to old and new reggae fans alike. What Sassafras was to the dancehall poster, Limonious was to the reggae dancehall album cover.

So this is our tribute to Limonious. Check out a collection of Wilfred Limonious album covers below:

Useful Wilfred Limonious links: